Traditional notions of what constitutes luxury have been turned upside-down in recent years, a trend reflected in the 2014 BMW X1, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, and the upcoming 2015 Audi A3. In Europe and other global regions, these automakers sell a broader variety of vehicles than they do in the U.S., starting at more accessible prices. Americans, however, view vehicles wearing a blue-and-white roundel, a 3-pointed star, and quad chrome rings as luxury vehicles, as something better than the common Chevy, Kia, or Toyota that their neighbor drives, as a reward for academic or professional achievement, as a path to an upper-class lifestyle from a middle-class existence.
Nevertheless, these car companies need to expand their U.S. lineups, reaching farther down-market in order to capture younger, less affluent people in the hope that they will convert aspirational up-and-coming car buyers into lifetime loyalists. Rather than let these customers purchase a Camry and then step up to a Lexus, BMW and other premium European marques are planning to entice Generation Y with new models wearing a lower price.
In bringing the BMW X1 to America, the purveyor of ultimate driving machines also attempts to capitalize on insatiable desires for crossover suvs, endowing the X1 with the minimum requirements to qualify for membership in that vehicle class. It’s not really an SUV. And it’s not a luxury vehicle. But I’ll tell you this much: it’s pretty damn fun to drive.